FIDDLER’S GREEN, by Van Reid, Viking Press, New York, 300 pages, hardcover, $25.95.
Author Van Reid originally planned three ripping adventures for the portly Portland gentleman Tobias Walton and his comrades in the Moosepath League. Fortunately for readers, the characters created by the Edgecomb novelist would not leave him alone.
The author concentrated the first three books featuring the Moosepath League on Mister Walton and introduced the club’s other members. “Mrs. Roberto or the Widowy Worries of the Moosepath League,” the fourth novel, focused on an escapade involving the inseparable trio of Messrs. Ephram, Eagleton and Thump – a 19th century version of The Three Stooges.
“Fiddler’s Green or a Wedding, a Ball, and the Singular Adventures of Sundry Moss,” the fifth in the series, takes place the first two weeks of June 1897, about one year after the League’s serendipitous formation.
The book begins with the long-awaited marriage of Mister Walton and Miss Phileda McCannon. Reid, however, quickly dispatches the newlyweds on a honeymoon to Halifax, leaving self-styled gentleman’s gentleman Sundry Moss to stumble into adventure on his own.
Reid’s own variation of the Charles Dickens’ plot formula includes the requisite waif in danger, mistaken identity, family feud and a few red herrings in his plot. Through it all, Sundry Moss stoically carries on, led by an indomitable inner compass and moral code, but followed by a man searching for the illusive Fiddler’s Green.
Robin Oig, an unusually tall sailor who carries an oar over his shoulder as he inexplicably traces the hero’s steps, gives the book its title. Early in the plot, Oig describes for Sundry Moss the place the sailor is searching for.
“‘Fiddler’s Green,’ he declared, as if reading from a stone, ‘is a form of Paradise; that is Heaven; that is, anyplace that won’t starve you, burn your hide, or freeze parts that you might be needing in port. Fiddler’s Green takes some wandering to find, and there’s only one way of knowing it.’…
“‘Take that oar with you wherever you go,’ continued the sailor, ‘ and wherever you go, you go as far from the sea as the sea will allow … and you roam with that oar till you come to a place where they ask to look at it, and they peer at it, and they consider it, and they ask you what it is.'”
Again, Reid has vibrantly brought his characters and their surroundings to life. He also takes readers back in time, immersing them in a geography that is vaguely familiar and peopled with characters whose motives are recognizable in the 21st century. What the writer does best, however, is vividly portray the day-to-day existence of the men, women and children who built the modern state of Maine.
Whether Sundry Moss, the Moosepath League or the sailor ever reach Fiddler’s Green is, of course, irrelevant. The adventure – Reid knows and writes so adeptly – is in the seeking, after all.
Judy Harrison can be reached at 990-8207 and firstname.lastname@example.org.